In August of 1998, a resource developed by the Rev. Ernesto Medina (then in the Diocese of Los Angeles and now retired in the Diocese of Nebraska) made its debut on the church-wide level. Entitled The Authority of Generations, this process became the foundation for the National Episcopal Children’s Ministries Conference held at Camp Allen (Diocese of Texas) in September 1998. Hundreds came from across the Episcopal Church to further explore a Children’s Charter for the Church and how to implement it on the congregational and diocesan level. Each morning, small groups of 8-10 people gathered across the main campus to pray, read scripture, sing, and share stories. All of this was grounded in hearing everyone’s voice on an equal level.Continue reading The Authority of Generations
I’ve been waiting for this book ever since Today is a Baptism Day was released two years ago. Anna V. Ostenso Moore (author) and Peter Krueger (illustrator) have given young and old another gift with We Gather at This Table. With a gentle voice Anna shares how important it is for all ages to come together for the sharing of sacred stories, prayer, song, and fellowship. And during this time of being physically distant from each other, this book is especially touching as we recall how we can still find Jesus’ presence among us when we gather with those in our “safe circle” to share meals and tell stories of Jesus.Continue reading We Gather at This Table
Knowing that all of us will be observing Holy Week at home this year (2020), Christian formation folks as well as publishers are making a number of resources available for free. From streaming Bible study and worship to downloadable coloring sheets and devotions, it can be a bit overwhelming to recall what you saw shared online and forgot to “bookmark.” I’ve been keeping a running tab of ideas that have popped up in the blogposts, newsletters, and social media feeds I follow. Here are some ideas I feel worth passing along for you to check out. (And this post won’t “disappear” in your feed!)
Prayers and Devotions
Church Publishing has offered a free online version (via Issu) of Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People by Jenifer Gamber and myself. It’s now available free until 11:59pm EST April 15, 2020. View it here.
Roger Hutchison, artist, Christian educator, and of numerous books including Under the Fig Tree and Jesus: God Among Us (great for Holy Week and Easter reading) has been leading a Bible study on his Vimeo channel based on Jesus Among Us. You can also view his reading of The Very Best Day on the site.
StoryMakers NYC has created a new curriculum that is tailored towards the developmental stages of children and young teens on their Christian journey through wonderful illustrations and creative storytelling and activities. They have been making weekly sessions available for free, including great videos of the Sunday Gospel lesson. Check out their website for freebies and how to get on their mailing list to obtain the weekly video in your inbox.
The Godly Play Foundation has made available for download two sets of materials to go with The Faces of Easter prints (purchase the digital story here) and The Parable of the Good Shepherd figures (digital story here for download/purchase). Whether your materials are waiting for you safely at your church for when you return or you want to try Godly Play for the first time, this is an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
Every Friday night Daneen Akers, author of the new amazing book Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, will offer a story from the book. This one is very timely – the story of Florence Nightingale.
The Center for Children and Theology offers a set of ten templates: five lightly lined sheets with borders reflecting the themes of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (the True Vine, the cross, the nativity, prophetic and angelic announcements) and five practice sheets for learning the strokes of lower and upper case letter of calligraphy.
Candle Press has been producing downloadable “To Go” sheets for churches to send home or via email to families for years. Founder Helen Barron has made available four “To Go: At Home” sheets for families to engage in prayer, activities, and discussion on Lenten themes: In the Ark, God is Here, A Boat in the Storm, and Martha and Mary. All you need to do is sign up for her monthly email. Here is a taste with God is Here.
GenOn Ministries is giving away sessions to gather around the kitchen table, coffee table, picnic blanket, or anywhere food is shared. Use it for any meal or snack time, any day of the week, to break bread, study the Bible, play, and pray—together. It’s a fun and easy way to add a faith and fun component to mealtime. Maybe with grandparents or friends over Zoom or FaceTime? It could become a new Sunday morning or Friday night tradition!
- Prayers for the days of Holy Week from Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans
- Holy Week coloring sheets and puzzles by Anne Kitch from What We Do in Lent
- Way of Love coloring posters (in English and Spanish) from Jay Sidebotham
- A chapter on how to talk about Good Friday with your children from Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents by Wendy Claire Barrie
- The Easter reflection (with art) from Roger Hutchison in Under the Fig Tree
- Use your LEGOs to tell the story, “Jesus Enters Jerusalem” from Building Faith Brick by Brick by Emily Given
- A chapter from my book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God from Mardis Gras through Pentecost about observing Maundy Thursday in your home.
With many thanks to all these individuals and publishers for making this resources available. Please check out their websites and support their ministries.
Anyone who is on Facebook has probably seen this YouTube video (The Dreaded Stairs) popping up on people’s pages. I didn’t pay much attention until a fellow Christian educator (thank you Donald Schell) shared it on the NAECED list-serve with the comment, “Engineers offering a startlingly non-verbal invitation to fun, creativity, and play and produce a startlingly large result for behavior change that looks like it may also have provoked an enhanced sense of community and consciousness as well. After I watched it, I was thinking of some the ‘shoulds’ the engineers didn’t touch. ‘It would be better for people and for society if more people used the stairs.’ ‘We should encourage everyone to use the stairs if they can.’ ‘I’m making a new year’s resolution to use the stairs.’ etc.”
Donald concludes, “What chances are we missing to lead change without any ‘should’ at all?”
So I wonder, how do we engage children, youth, AND adults in engaging with the Biblical story and building a stronger relationship to God? Are there ways we can encourage others to try a new set of stairs instead of the easy-way-out of not exerting any energy by taken the escalator?
I recently posted an article on Building Faith regarding the importance of teaching hymns and church music to children as a means to teach faith while creating memories that last a lifetime. (Building Faith is the new on-line community that I administer, which is probably why my postings on this site have diminished in recent months). For many of us, the Christmas season brings back lots of memories, and they are often triggered by music. Music brings us together and can create instant community; the recent flash mob in the mall in Philadelphia singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus has been a YouTube and Facebook phenomena.
This past Sunday my congregation held its annual Service of Lessons and Carols. We listened to the readings of the prophets as well as God’s announcements to Mary and Elizabeth. The church was filled as together we sung familiar hymns such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. The choir was was comprised of voices of all ages, some perhaps singing songs just learned and others singing ones learned long ago. My parents attended with us – and yes, my Alzheimer-stricken mom was singing away. Sometimes with the words – but definitely la-la-ing in her falsetto right on key. Music is a memory that stays with us.
The previous week my parents were at our home for the usual Wednesday night dinner. I don’t remember what our conversation was about; probably joking and talking about when grandchildren would be home for the holidays. Suddenly my mom began singing, I Love to Tell the Story.
Now this hymn was not part of my childhood repertoire and I did not learn it until I was an adult involved in Christian education. It’s not even in Hymnal 1982. (However, it is in Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal for the Episcopal Church.) The hymn had its first impact on me at a ground-breaking Episcopal Christian Ed conference in 2003 in which I participated as part of the design and implementation team – Will Our Faith Have Children? Christian Formation Generation to Generation – in Chicago. Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina was keynoting, and sang the song with a passion. I can still picturing him bouncing around the stage, his Bible (or Prayer Book) held high in his hand. The importance of being able to share the Christian story – the story of Jesus and His love for us – is at the core of what it means to pass on faith to the next generation.
Jump ahead 10 years, and my mom’s singing this song at my dining room table. We never knew she knew it. She was adamant that she learned it in Sunday School . . . the tiny Baptist chapel she walked to in her neighborhood (that part was from my memory of her stories from my childhood). The chapel still stands today in our town, now someone’s home. Whether it be Away in a Manger or Hark the Herald Angels Sing, wouldn’t we rather have our children sing these songs to the next generation instead of Jingle Bells or Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?